Downside of yo-yo dieting is rise in heart disease risk

Gaining, losing even 10 pounds is problem for healthy weight women, study suggests

weighing in

HEART HEALTH  Yo-yo dieters, even if they’re not overweight, could be placing their heart health at risk.


NEW ORLEANS — A new study highlights just how bad yo-yo dieting might be.

Women who repeatedly lose and regain as little as 10 pounds may have a higher likelihood of sudden cardiac death and cardiovascular disease — even if their bodies stay within the range of recommended weight. The results are concerning because yo-yo dieting is more prevalent among people who are typically of healthy weight, said Somwail Rasla, an internal medicine resident at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He presented the results November 15 at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.

Rasla and his colleagues analyzed data from more than 158,000 postmenopausal women who were followed for more than 11 years as part of the Women’s Health Initiative, of whom 55,000 reported repeated weight gains and losses. During that time, 83 women suffered from sudden cardiac death, and 2,526 women died of heart disease. Yo-yo dieters of healthy weight were three times as likely to experience sudden cardiac death than women whose weight remained stable, no matter what their weight. And the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 66 percent greater in the normal-weight dieters compared with other women.

But the observational study could not determine cause and effect, and studies on yo-yo dieting have not found consistent results, Rasla says. More research might explain how weight cycling damages the heart, he says, including studies into genetic alterations, insulin resistance and stress.

About Laura Beil

Laura Beil is a contributing correspondent. Based outside Dallas, Beil specializes in reporting on medicine, health policy and science.

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